The Sixth Amendment guarantees U.S. citizens a number of rights, including the right to a speedy trial. In this article, we’ll define the term “speedy trial” and explain what it means for a trial to be speedy or not.
According to the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, all accused people in criminal prosecutions shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial. If a convicted defendant can establish that their right to a speedy trial was violated, the court must set aside the conviction, vacate the sentence, and dismiss the charging document. If the case hasn’t yet gone to trial, the court must dismiss the charges.
There are several reasons why speedy trials are considered to be a fundamental liberty, including that they:
In the legal context, the term “speedy” is relative. Generally speaking, a speedy trial is one that occurs as soon as reasonably possible.
The Sixth Amendment does not state exactly what does and does not qualify as a speedy trial. However, the federal government and many states have laws specifying the time frame within which prosecutors must bring defendants to trial.
For example, in California, the government must get a defendant charged with a felony to trial within 60 days of indictment or arraignment unless there is good cause for a delay. The defendant may move the proceedings slower if they choose.
In addition to mention of speedy trials in the Sixth Amendment, there is also something called the Speedy Trial Act which applies to federal courts. The Speedy Trial Act establishes time limits for completing the various stages of a federal criminal prosecution. According to the Speedy Trial Act:
If a defendant claims that their right to a speedy trial was violated, the courts undertake a speedy trial analysis called a balancing test. This assesses the following factors: